Resurrection and New Life

After the forty days of Lent comes the fifty days of Easter.  Once Easter eggs have disappeared from the shops, the Easter break is forgotten in the rush of the new school term, and the sadly inevitable Easter road death toll has been reported and analysed, the Church’s long Easter season will continue to inspire any who are still listening.

Sometimes I think Church goers are more at home with Lenten penance than with Easter joy.  Many Christians willingly try to do more prayer, fasting and charity before Easter, but soon lose the Easter spirit once the Holy Week services are done and the chocolate has been eaten.  Surely, as pilgrims in a world full of pain and contradiction, we can identify with the suffering Christ.  We look to him in the hope that our suffering can find meaning in his, and for the reassurance that he understands our lot.  Perhaps we find it harder to identify with him in his glory, and may even suspect that our small penances have not been enough to merit a place in his kingdom.  We struggle to see that the new life of the risen Lord is ours for the living, and we don’t appreciate how God’s kingdom is already bursting out all over – God’s free gift to his children.

Much had been written about the new pope and how he differs in style from his predecessor.  Pope Benedict’s splendidly embroidered copes and mitres were meant to speak of heavenly glory, and his principled teaching always pointed beyond this world to a better place.  Ironically it is Pope Francis’s humbler way of doing things, his simpler vestments and his insistence on remembering the poor which have put fresh heart into many people who look for the new life of God’s kingdom.

It would be wrong to expect one man, even a pope, to “resurrect” a Church which has suffered so many scandals in recent times.  Only Christ, who has triumphed over sin and death, can bring us through the tribulations of this life and into the victory of the next.  But a pope can be an inspiration to many others, getting them to co-operate with Christ.  Speaking on the day of his official installation, Pope Francis asked the representatives of more than 130 countries to care for the poor and protect the environment.  During these past two weeks we have been following his election and analysing his style, but will we now listen to his words and follow his example?  Will reach out and join hands with like-minded people who strive to make this world a better place, or will we relegate him to becoming a nine-day wonder which will fade along with the taste of Easter eggs?

Each year we hear the call to live the new life of the Risen Christ.  During these fifty days and beyond let us become an Easter people, celebrating new life by sharing in the making of a new world.

Fr Thomas Plastow SJ
BA, HDE (UCT), MA Philosophy (Heythrop, London), BST (Urbanianum), MA Theology (Catholic Theological Union, Chicago)
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